Sears. Going Out of Business at a Strip Mall Near You

Sears National Customer Relations
3333 Beverly Road
Hoffman Estates, IL 60179

Norwich, VT, February 1, 2005

Dear Sears,

Recently, our Kenmore fridge/freezer gave up on us; at six years of age, this was a little ahead of time, but so be it. The $220 service agreement that you sold us when I called repairs offered us $500 towards a replacement unit, so when your technician left, I immediately checked your website to see what was on offer. I found a replacement, and called my local Sears (West Lebanon, NH) to order one. Yes, said "Bruce", they could get me one, and if I ordered right then and there, I could have it within a week.

Not bad. Except I was told I could only pay over the phone with a Sears Card. Not a Visa Card, Amex or Master Card, like at, oh, approximately a million other retail outlets in the US. Sears Card only, otherwise I'd have to show up in person at the store and pay. How convenient. Not. But storing our food in a crate in the garage was also pretty inconvenient, so four hours later I showed up at my local Sears store, only to be told that, alas, the fridge I wanted was no longer available. Yes, it was a closeout item, but still. I agreed to let myself be up-sold to ever more expensive models, but every time it came down to setting a delivery time I was told that it was weeks' off, not the 3-7 business days advertised on the Sears website and elsewhere.

I finally in desperation tried to buy a floor model to throw in the back of my pickup truck and install myself, but I was told that the little red sticker on all of them meant that they couldn't be sold. I marveled how the Sears policy of "phone orders with Sears Cards only" now meant that I was without a fridge while looking at a sea of fridges I couldn't buy, and was told that even the local Sears stores hated the policy. So what marketing wizard came up with that scheme? "Make them join our club, no, wait, make them regret that they didn't join our club earlier, or else we'll make it so hard for them to shop Sears that they'll be tempted to go somewhere else…" No wonder you were bought out by another bankrupt retailer.

Back home to regroup and watch our frozen goods slowly go bad, I tried to order another fridge from your website, only to discover that Sears online would not or could not (even after extensive discussions with your friendly online customer service staff it was never quite clear which it was) honor the $500 credit I had been given by Sears to buy a Sears product. Finally found a fridge that might theoretically even be available and deliverable; we made the journey back to the store to order it, and was then made to observe the excruciatingly painful and protracted process of two Sears sales people educating one another on how to add, then deduct delivery fees and taxes in odd, illogical chunks to reach a final price. Oh, and to get the sales price for the fridge could we please call back the next day – or come back to the store?

But it was done: the order had been placed, and today, February 1st, was to be the big day for us. Your automated confirmation system had alerted us that you would deliver between 12 and 2. We arranged our schedules to accommodate that, and waited. All would be well; all would be forgiven and forgotten. This letter would not be written, and we would perhaps still be Sears customers. But then this morning you called to tell us that, no, our replacement fridge wouldn't be showing up after all. Apparently, the delivery truck had been pulled over by the DMV and had not had its papers in order, so it had been forced to turn back. But how would Thursday work for us?

It just boggles the mind. For whatever reason, you've chosen to set up a sales process for major appliances that is almost guaranteed to alienate and disappoint potential customers. But to then fail to deliver to the few who endure the ordeal of buying from you because you can't keep the paperwork on your trucks in order is just laughably embarrassing and incredibly annoying. This is not a stack of CDs or a fleece sweater where you can screw up the shipping and it'll probably be okay; it's an $1100 major appliance purchase – in our case, an emergency purchase to replace a dead Sears fridge. We were counting on it showing up Tuesday as agreed; the fact that it was available by that date was a major selling point. To now find that, actually, you could only find competent drivers who know to obey the rules of the road by Thursday is simply unacceptable.

In the process of becoming K-Sears or Sea-Mart you seem to have decided that customer satisfaction is entirely optional. I've been happy with the products I've purchased from you before, but I do believe you've managed to turn me away for good.

Before I review Sears as a retailer at www.epinions.com and other major portals, it would seem only fair to wait for your response. Until then I remain,

Yours in utter disappointment,